The UK government has accused tobacco giant Philip Morris of unacceptable behaviour by using adverts to promote its heat-not-burn product, iQOS.

An investigation by the Daily Telegraph claimed the tobacco company was supplying newsagents across the UK with sale material for the devices, which the government claims is a breach of tobacco-product laws.

Philip Morris has defended the adverts, saying the law applies to cigarettes not the new tobacco heaters.

iQOS heats tobacco rather than burns it, and is being promoted as a healthier alternative to smoking regular cigarettes.  The company spent around £3 billion developing the product.

And according to the Telegraph’s article Trading Standards in Hackney, Glasgow and Lambeth are now investigating reports about the posters being displayed in shop windows with some allegedly being removed.

Public Health Minister, Steve Brine, said: “It’s completely unacceptable for organisations to be promoting tobacco products – smoking kills, and that’s why we have clear, strict rules in place protecting people from its harmful effects.

But Peter Nixon, UK managing director at Phillip Morris, defended the adverts claiming the tobacco laws were aimed at cigarettes and not heat not burn devices and claims they are lower risk, and designed to help people quit cigarettes.

iQOS Study

In March The Guardian published the results of a study into iQOS which said the device may be less healthy than originally thought claiming “The new research, published in the journal Tobacco Control, found that users speed up their “puff rate” in order to inhale more nicotine because the heat stick lasts for just six minutes, after which the device shuts off and needs to be recharged. That means they may potentially breathe in large amounts of vapour.”

iQOS has been successfully marketed in Japan where it has around 10% of the market.  More recently a court in Wellington gave Philip Morris the green light to sell the product in New Zealand.  Previously the country’s Ministry of Health had deemed the device legal but the accompanying heat sticks illegal.

iQOS is now available in 30 markets.